Are the Benefits of Statins Something You Should Take to Heart?

Heart health


By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder


Americans were shocked when fitness guru and star trainer of The Biggest Loser Bob Harper suffered a heart attack in 2017. If someone as healthy as Harper could have a heart attack, then heart disease can affect anyone.

Harper suffered a type of heart attack commonly referred to as the “widowmaker heart attack.” It “...occurs when the left anterior descending artery, one of the three main arteries that supply blood to the heart, is almost totally blocked,” according to this report discussing Harper’s journey with heart disease.

Luckily, Harper survived. Reportedly, he was instructed to take a statin as part of his heart attack prevention regimen.

Statins are a class of drugs used to treat high cholesterol. It may help prevent a  heart attack or stroke. More specifically, statins may reduce the production of cholesterol by the liver.

President Trump takes statins as well, because he too has issues with cholesterol.

More recently, a report says his cholesterol is actually down now despite his issues with his weight. Maybe this is because of the statins. And although we cannot definitively say that President Trump’s issues with cholesterol had to do with diet and lifestyle, I would bet money that was certainly the case. He seems to love fast food, and some reports say he does not exercise much aside from playing golf. And for most Americans battling unhealthy cholesterol levels, diet and lifestyle play a huge role.  

In Harper’s case, “...he was at high risk for both heart attack and stroke, thanks to an inherited cholesterol abnormality — high lipoprotein(a), a particle in the blood that carries cholesterol, fat and proteins.”  

So there you have it. Two markedly different men who both take statins. And millions of Americans take statins. This is largely because heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.

Even though there are many Americans who currently take statins, there are medical professionals who say not enough Americans are taking these cholesterol-lowering drugs. For example, a 2015 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that almost half of Americans who have cholesterol readings that put them at a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke are not taking the medication (statins) they need to lower this risk.

And this 2019 report suggested that more than “a quarter of people who could benefit from taking statins don't, and a new survey suggests that while not enough doctors are prescribing the cholesterol-lowering drugs, fears about side effects also play a part.”

According to the American College of Cardiology, three of the most common side effects and concerns surrounding statin use are muscle-related issues, new-onset diabetes and increased incidence of hemorrhagic stroke.

“In other words, they [these side effects] can lower a patient's quality of life and/or prevent him from exercising, which is counterproductive [because exercise may greatly help prevent heart disease],” reports the American Council on Science and Health.

But the American College of Cardiology also reports that statins are very well-tolerated, and that 85 to 90 percent of patients who take them report no side effects.

There are also medical professionals who suggest that doctors in general are over prescribing statins. There is some controversy surrounding who should get statins and who should not. This whole debate has even been referred to as a ‘statins war.’

So this is my assessment of the whole situation.

As always, if you are instructed by a competent healthcare professional to take a statin, you should take it. But don’t neglect the fact that you are at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. The best thing you can do for heart health and heart attack prevention is to lead a healthy lifestyle by eating healthily and watching your salt intake, reducing your stress levels, not smoking, drinking in moderation (if you do drink alcohol), exercising and maintaining a healthy weight.

Yes, we know this did not work for Bob Harper. Some of us will have to get special testing, such as genetic testing, to determine whether we are prone to high cholesterol or heart attacks. And if we are, we can be even more proactive about this disease.

You will never be able to out-medicate an unhealthy lifestyle. And even though you should never abruptly stop taking a medication your doctor instructed you to take, you can work to lower your cholesterol (by adopting the healthy lifestyle habits mentioned above) and then revisit your doctor to see if you can stop taking the statins.

With all of this said, a new study revealed that half of patients on statins fail to reach healthy cholesterol levels after taking the drugs for two years.

“After taking account of potentially influential factors, including age, cholesterol level, and any underlying conditions before treatment, patients who failed to reach a 40 percent reduction after two years were 22 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those who did respond well,” according to this report discussing the study.

There could be a variety of reasons why some patients do not respond well “but genetic make-up and an inability to stick to treatment may explain some of the observed variation.”

“Exercising and eating foods rich in fiber can help [lower bad cholesterol]. But for some patients, even that is unlikely to be enough. For those unlucky folks who naturally produce a lot of cholesterol, doctors recommend drugs like Lipitor (atorvastatin) [a statin],” (American Council on Science and Health).

For those who must absolutely take statins, speak with your doctor about what you can do to avoid side effects. In my opinion, one of the most troubling potential side effects of taking statins (and countless of other medications) is nutrient depletion. We all need a certain amount of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, in order to be our healthiest and prevent heart disease. Taking statins may deplete the body of essential fatty acids and “inhibit the production of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 plays important roles in preserving the energy supplies of our cells,” (Harvard Health).

Whether we take statins or not, it is imperative we all take routine nutrient tests so that we can identify any nutrient imbalances in our bodies. If we discover we have too much or too little of a certain nutrient, a competent healthcare professional can help with making the necessary dietary changes and possibly recommend quality supplements.

To learn more about specific nutrients that may help prevent heart attacks, check out this pH Labs blog.


Are you currently taking statins? What has your experience been so far? Please join the conversation.


Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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